Top volunteer Martin Quinn overcame serious illness to be crowned Tipperary Person of the Year on Saturday night.
The Tipperary town man was feted at a gala ceremony in Dublin where he was described as a ‘super human’ for his voluntary efffort on behalf of so many organistions.
But as Mr Quinn explained to the packed conference room in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, he has suffered a number of strokes in recent months and is still in recovery.
But apologising for the impact the strokes had on his speech, he said ‘recovery’ was the key word and he was delighted to be able to attend and to be honourd with such an accolade.
On the same night Tipperary hurling legend and one of the great characters of the GAA in the county, Mickey ‘The Rattler’ Byrne was also honoured by being inducted into the Tipperary Association Dublin’s Hall of Fame.
And Mickey, whose medal haul includes five All Ireland wins and a record fourteen county senior medals with his Thurles Sarsfields club, delighted the audience when he said he always fought to the bitter end with club and county and whoever came out on top, he was the never the last one to do so.
And then he finished his speech with a rendition of his party piece, ‘By the Silvery Light of the Moon’ to rapturous applause.
New Tipperary Person of the Year and Bansha man Martin Quinn joins three other natives of the West Tipp village in being honoured with the association’s ultimate accolade – football supremo Seamus McCarthy, former Mountjoy Jail governor John Loneran and top jockey Christy Roche.
And he remarked that it was his upbringing in Bansha that moulded his life and formed his commitment to voluntary causes.
He paid an emotional tribute to his late parents, Larry and Mary Quinn, for instilling such a philosophy in him; to the local Galtee Rovers GAA club and its stalwart, the late John Moloney, for continuing with the groundwork; and to the legacy of Muintir na Tire founder, Canon John Hayes.
An inspiration in later years was former Irish rugby manager Mick Doyle who himself suffered a stroke before fighting his way to full health only then to die tragically in a car crash.
Mick Doyle – whose widow Mandy attended the ceremony on Saturday night – was heavily involved with Martin Quinn in the Canon Hayes National Sports Awards as Olympic champion Ronnie Delany still is and he was also attended at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel to celebrate Martin’s achievement.
Reflecting the significance of his honour, he said Tipperary was home to the most patriotic people in the country and Thomas Davis had named it the ‘Premier County’ and remarked that where Tipperary leads, Ireland follows.
“We all agree with that and it can be seen in the sporting sphere, cultural, peace and reconciliation and community development. And one of the key ingredients in it all is volunteerism, it’s at the heart of community life. Helping others has been a long standing tradition in this county, something I knew about very much growing up in Bansha”, he said.
Explaining how Martin Quinn – ‘Mr Volunteer’ – was chosen as Tipperary Person of the Year, Tipperary Association president Liam Myles outlined his work with the GAA, youth clubs, parish councils, Tipperary Mid West radio, Special Olympics, Muintir na Tire, South Tipperary Sports Partnership, Tipperary International Peace Convention and the Canon Hayes Recreation Centre.
“He also got involved in the Mental Health Association in West Tipperary to give support to people, particularly young people, with mental health issues to help prevent rural suicides. He helps to fundraise for the Mount Sion Residential Home and many others groups. He is a super human who has done himself, his parish, community and county proud”, said Mr Myles.
Replying, Mr Quinn said he just happened to go on from one organistion to another and he put a lot of it down to the inspiration of Canon Hayes and his motto of ‘better to light a candle than curse the darkness’ – and that was the philosphy of the many winners of the Peace Award that he was so involved with.
Referring to suicide prevention, he said he was also trying to light a candle. “Without community service we would not have a strong quality of life. It is important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It is the way we grow and develop. I won’t change the world on my own but I would like people to work with me to bring about change”, he remarked.
He said there is no easy road in community life, there is much to be done and what a community does together is important. Quoting the poet Robert Frost, he accepted that he had taken the ‘road less travelled’ in his life.
Mr Quinn thanked the huge number who had travelled from Tipp town and hinterland to support him, particularly his daughters Samantha and Lorna - “my rock” he described them as.
There was also a large representation from Thurles to honour ‘The Rattler’, one of the most charismatic figures in Tipperary hurling whose wit, humour and quips are now legendary, as recounted by award sponsor Michael Fenton. Advised by the Sarsfields club chairman to turn the other cheek when things got too heated in a local derby, Mickey asked what was he to do when he ran out of cheeks!
Another of his favourite descriptions of a poor hurling game was - “The first half was even, the second half was even worse”.
As Mr Fenton remarked - “Can you imagine what success he would have had as a stand-up comedian in today’s TV age”?